8th U.S. Army Chief Goes on Curfew Patrol

Eighth U.S. Army Commander John Johnson went on a curfew patrol in Seoul's Itaewon at 2 a.m. last Saturday in a show of discipline after the rape of two Korean teenagers by soldiers under Johnson's command. He patrolled an entertainment district frequented by U.S. Forces Korea servicemen.

Johnson postponed a trip to the U.S. in order to patrol the area. In a military police uniform, Johnson walked the 100 m distance from the Hamilton Hotel to the Cheil Worldwide building accompanied by his aide-de-camp and five military police officers. He went into three bars that are popular with USFK servicemen.

The aim was to enforce a 30-day curfew for all USFK personnel living in barracks put in place by USFK Commander James Thurman last Friday, according to the Eighth U.S. Army.

Eighth U.S. Army Commander John Johnson (center) on patrol with military policemen in Itaewon, Seoul on Saturday. Eighth U.S. Army Commander John Johnson (center) on patrol with military policemen in Itaewon, Seoul on Saturday.

A USFK private (21) was arrested and indicted last Thursday on charges of entering a dormitory-style room in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi Province, threatening a teen girl with a deadly weapon, and raping her.

Meanwhile, Mapo Police Station in Seoul booked another USFK serviceman (also 21) on charges of entering another dormitory room in the early morning, raping an 18 year-old girl, and stealing a laptop computer, a spokesman said last Friday.

Curfews are rare in peacetime. The curfew is in effect from midnight until 5 a.m. on weekdays and 3-5 a.m. on weekends and U.S.-observed holidays. The USFK also encouraged military families to observe it. The last curfew was instituted at midnight on Sept. 11, 2001 and only lifted in July last year.

Johnson said he wanted to see with his own eyes if USFK personnel were observing the curfew. The Korean Foreign Ministry had told the U.S. government of its concern over sex crimes committed by U.S. soldiers here, and the curfew was necessary to ease it, he added.

The USFK is also running a program to improve discipline during the month-long curfew and will extend the curfew if it concludes that problems have not been fixed, Johnson said.

englishnews@chosun.com / Oct. 10, 2011 09:08 KST